A Jewish Story

Adath celebrated our history during the 1940s and 1950s at a centennial instrumental Shabbat evening service Friday, February 3, 2023.

The prototypical Jewish story is a tale of a people somehow surviving difficult situations and thriving. This ever-dying people has persevered for over 2000 years. We have seen our fair share of miracles, but we have also embraced the mundanities of daily existence. This contrast is the story of Adath Israel Congregation in the 1940s and 50s: a time when our community witnessed the horrors of World War II, the devastation of the Holocaust, but also the joy of the allied victory in the war and the creation of the State of Israel. Through it all the congregation had to do the work of religious services, education, and community building.

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Letters from Leaders

Throughout Adath Israel’s early history, our congregation crossed paths with a number of important figures in the Jewish community. The Linder Archives includes correspondence with leaders of the Conservative movement as Adath was trying to establish itself in Trenton.

One of the important goals of the new synagogue was finding a rabbi. The congregation reached out to several rabbis in the field, including Israel Goldstein. He replied back in a letter from 1920, three years before Adath’s founding, with two questions: “1) How conservative is your Synagogue intended to be, is it to have an organ, is it to have family pews? 2) Who suggested my name to you?” Continue reading “Letters from Leaders”

Early Ups and Downs

On Friday, December 2, 2022, Adath continued its celebration of 100 years with a centennial instrumental Shabbat evening service focused on our history from the 1920s and 1930s. These were the first two decades of Adath’s existence, when things were rocky.

The threats came both from the outside and the inside. First, Adath had to contend with the Great Depression just 6 years after our founding and only 3 years after the completion of the building on Bellevue Avenue in Trenton. I found in the Linder Archives a document called “The Adath Israel Congregation Story by Samuel R. Lavine” written around 1955. He notes that the depression years were hard. In his words, “the finances during those fateful, history-making years was insufficient to cover the successful operation of the synagogue.”

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Adath’s Beginnings

While Adath was founded on October 15, 1923, the process that led to the creation of our synagogue actually began with a letter dated November 2, 1920. In my sermon on the first day of Rosh Hashanah 2022, I explore the reasons why a group of 18 Jewish residents of Trenton invited their fellow community members to join them at a meeting to discuss the creation of a new Conservative synagogue in the city. Their situation has many parallels to ours today. Continue reading “Adath’s Beginnings”